Stephanie Daley

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Stephanie Daley Movie Poster Image
Sobering infanticide drama is too much for kids.
  • R
  • 2007
  • 91 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Very manipulative seduction scene; a married woman kisses her husband's friend; a married man appears to be having an affair (or is at least considering it); Stephanie gives birth in a bathroom and later discusses what she did with the baby.


Stephanie gives birth in a bathroom stall, and the frightening experience marches across her face. Blood coats her fingers and clothes. Lydie crashes into a deer.


No out-and-out nudity, but a teen boy skillfully persuades Stephanie into having sex -- an act that ends in a discomfortingly aloof manner. Some kissing and petting.


Some uses of "s--t," along with the occasional "f--k."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Underage drinking and occasional marijuana use. Some discussion of drinking scotch, and pregnant Lydie holds a glass of wine and talks about missing drinking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this affecting indie drama tackles the subject of teen pregnancy with frankness and near-complete honesty, which may make it overwhelming for teens, since nothing is sugar-coated. Nevertheless, it does so with an admirable lack of judgment, instead presenting the story with its sometimes-overwhelming complexity and sadness intact. It's a heavy movie, one that may bring on more questions than answers, and disturbing questions at that. There's some swearing, drinking, and sexuality, but the sobering subject matter is the big issue here.

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What's the story?

STEPHANIE DALEY is writer-director Hilary Brougher's complex, nuanced, and ultimately affecting film about infanticide. The sobering drama focuses on Stephanie (Amber Tamblyn), a 16-year-old raised in a Christian home who gains notoriety as the "ski mom" after she prematurely gives birth to -- and supposedly murders -- a baby girl while on a school ski trip. Right before she collapses on the dull-white snow, she leaves a blood-caked trail of footprints. Lydie Crane (Tilda Swinton, who also executive produced the film) is the forensics psychologist hired to determine exactly what took place that fateful day. Twenty-six weeks pregnant and still recovering from a prior stillbirth, Lydie is confident that she won't let her recent loss obscure her professional distance. But preventing her personal life from converging with her work has become tough for the psychologist; as she excavates Stephanie's past, Lydie's precariously balanced present threatens to capsize.

Is it any good?

Swinton tackles her role with a very effective light touch, giving it that much more heft. But it's Tamblyn who impresses. A TV actress who's made the occasional foray into film, she infuses a difficult, potentially alienating role with heartbreaking grace. In the hands of someone less skilled, Stephanie could have been a screeching cautionary tale. But here, she's at once abominable and humane, both guilty and innocent. When an older boy manipulates her into having sex and she later gives birth to the baby produced by that shockingly cold act, her anguish is tangible. And profoundly moving.

In STEPHANIE DALEY, Brougher has fashioned an intelligent movie that easily could have been mined simply for its shock value. She's refreshingly unafraid of ambiguity. But the film's potency is diluted by one too many portentous moments: the depressingly dark rooms, the dripping blood (not just from the birth scene), a classroom discussion of The Scarlet Letter, a deer caught literally in the headlights. Also, her superficial attempts to examine the role religion plays in the tragedy confuse rather than enhance the film. Still, a movie that tackles a lightning-rod subject without judgment and with deep compassion is a rarity to be savored.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how this movie portrays teen pregnancy and its consequences. Does it seem realistic to you? How does it compare to other movies' or TV shows' take on the issue? How does the film differ from press reports about infanticide? How are teen moms suspected of killing their babies portrayed in the media? Are they victims, victimizers, or both? Families can also discuss how the movie deals with sex. When Stephanie had sex, did it seem like an exciting moment or a problematic one? Why did she have sex? Was she pressured? Do you think she knew she was pregnant? If so, why do you think she kept it a secret? Is complete honesty difficult to achieve with parents? Why?

Movie details

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